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Salix babylonica is often confused with:
Agonis flexuosa Form
Quercus phellos Quercus phellos
Salix babylonica var. pekinensis 'Tortuosa'
Native alternative(s) for Salix babylonica:
Salix nigra Salix nigra
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Acer rubrum Acer rubrum
Ilex verticillata ilex verticillata fruit and leaves
Ilex vomitoria Ilex vomitoria
Salix babylonica has some common insect problems:
Imported Willow Leaf Beetle
Giant Willow Aphid
Willow Bladdergall Mite

Silver Willow Salix babylonica

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Salix matsudana
Phonetic Spelling
SA-liks bab-i-LON-i-ka
Description

Weeping willow is a woody, deciduous landscape tree in the willow family (Salicaceae). The genus name, Salix, is the Latin name for this tree. The epithet, babylonica, means "of Babylon." The tree was given its name by Carl Linnaeus, who mistakenly believed it was from ancient Babylon. It is actually native to eastern Asia and has naturalized throughout North Carolina. 

Weeping willow grows best in full sun or partial shade and very moist, acidic to alkaline soils. It grows quickly to a height and width of 30 to 40 feet. With that rapid growth comes weak wood which cracks or breaks easily, especially in the presence of snow or ice. Pruning to remove heavy branches can help avoid breakage. The willow is propagated by stem cutting. 

Weeping willow is a larval host plant for the viceroy butterfly and a food source for adult butterflies. It also supports several specialized bees. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in spring and the last to drop leaves in fall. Its graceful habit is effective as a specimen at the edges of ponds and lakes or any low spot in the landscape that retains water. Thus it is recommended for rain or water gardens but also pollinator, butterfly and winter gardens. Planted on a slope it can help control erosion. However, weeping willow is not typically recommended for home landscapes due to littering, breakage, disease and insect problems. Its invasive roots can damage the water or sewage pipes. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • It is a medium to large deciduous tree with grayish-brown or grayish-black furrowed bark. 
  • The weeping, pendulous branches and stems are reddish-brown to yellowish-brown.
  • Leaves are linear and lanceolate, have serrated margins with a light green upper surface, and are glaucous on undersides.
  • Flowers are male and female catkins which are born on separate trees in the spring.
  • The male catkin is the showiest, with no petals, only stamens, 1 to 2 inches long.
  • The fruit is a dry green to brown capsule that releases cottony-like seeds and ripens in late May to early June.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  Insects include aphids, mites, beetles, scale, borers, lace bugs and caterpillars. Diseases include blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots and cankers. Tree litter such as leaves, twigs and branches can be problematic in the home landscape. 

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

More information on Salix.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Aurea', 'Babylon', 'Crispa', 'Golden Curls', 'Scarlet Curls', 'Tortuosa', 'Tristis', 'Umbraculifera'
Tags:
#weeping#deciduous#large tree#winter interest#tsc#erosion control#standing water tolerant#pond margins#specialized bees#fast growing#aggressive#deer resistant#weak wood#lakes#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#deciduous tree#gray-green leaves#wet soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#tsc-t#bee friendly#viceroy butterflies#medium size tree#landscape plant sleuths course#wildlife friendly#cpp
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Aurea', 'Babylon', 'Crispa', 'Golden Curls', 'Scarlet Curls', 'Tortuosa', 'Tristis', 'Umbraculifera'
Tags:
#weeping#deciduous#large tree#winter interest#tsc#erosion control#standing water tolerant#pond margins#specialized bees#fast growing#aggressive#deer resistant#weak wood#lakes#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#deciduous tree#gray-green leaves#wet soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#tsc-t#bee friendly#viceroy butterflies#medium size tree#landscape plant sleuths course#wildlife friendly#cpp
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Salix
    Species:
    babylonica
    Family:
    Salicaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans used twigs and bark for medicine. They were chewed to relieve headaches. It was later found that salicylic acid was an active ingredient in the bark ad twigs. Aspirin was derived from willow plants.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    East Asia--China
    Distribution:
    Introduced: United States--AL, AR, CA, DE, D.C., FL, GA, KY, MD, NC, SC, TN, VA; Mexico; South America
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant supports Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) larvae which has two to three broods from May-September. Adult butterflies feed on decaying matter, aphid honeydew, and nectar from composite flowers. Members of the Salix genus support the following specilized bees: Andrena (Parandrena) andrenoides, Andrena (Thysandrena) bisalicis, Andrena (Tylandrena) erythrogaster, Andrena (Andrena) frigida, Andrena (Micrandrena) illinoiensis, Andrena (Andrena) macoupinensis, Andrena (Trachandrena) mariae, Andrena (Parandrena) nida, Andrena (Micrandrena) nigrae, Andrena (Micrandrena) salictaria, Andrena (Parandrena) wellesleyana.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Broad
    Rounded
    Weeping
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Frequent Standing Water
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a dry, hard, capsule. It is initially green and turns brown when ripened. A capsule that releases many tiny, down-covered, or cottony seeds. It does not attract wildlife. They are not showy and create litter. They ripen in late May to early June.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Insignificant
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Male and female flowers are born on separate male and female trees. They are silvery-green, non-showy, and appear from April to May. The male catkin is the showiest with only stamens, no petals, and measures 1 to 2 inches long.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, simple, and linear-lanceolate. They are 3-6 inches long, 0.5 to 0.75 inches wide, acuminate, cuneate, and have finely serrated margins. The leaves are light green above, and grayish-green or glaucous beneath. They are glabrous, and the stipules are slender. The fall foliage is greenish-yellow or sometimes golden yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Black
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Irregular
    Bark Description:
    The bark is gray-brown or gray-black with irregular furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Scaly
    Stem Bud Scales:
    Enclosed in a single cap like scale
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are reddish to yellowish brown and smooth. The nodes are rounded, hairy, and point downward. The wood is weak and susceptible to breakage and litter.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Pond
    Riparian
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Erosion
    Wet Soil